Saturday, November 12, 2005


The roads are bad, take the train, he said in Bundi...The trains are unreliable, take a car, he said in Bhopal... We took the car to Bhopal. The roads were bad, in places non-existent. Two drivers, it's a long way and they want to return without staying overnight. Road crews, men and women, in spots carrying stones, tar, bucket by bucket, repairing or creating the road as we go. We rush and creep until we run out of Rajasthan. Then a dead stop at the phone/fax place. The drivers have no permit for Madhya Pradesh. Half an hour, they tell us. Permission comes, they say. Three hours later they are right.

We are the local entertainment, trapped in a car surrounded by children and locals 3 and 4 deep. The heat in the unmoving car mounts. Ignoring them only goes so far. Hellos, waving, giggles, photos, pointing. Kari wants to buy treats for them all. The drivers come and tuck us into the phone place. No longer behind glass, but with an intangible border, protection of the telephone man... We wait, read, are brought chai (twice), bicker, and try to find out what we are waiting for. Finally we speak with the agent who booked the car for us and he tells us he is not responsible, the drivers have lied and told him they had all the paperwork that was needed. He calls the taxi company and then tells us five more minutes and we should be on our way...Yes, the fax machine finally beeps to life.

We reach Bhopal in complete darkness. After the drivers finally find our hotel we wish they hadn't. This is the best of the mid-range places, yikes! We are exhausted by our 12 hour journey and I am immobilized by intestinal distress and being in yet another huge and polluted Indian city. Kari finds a travel agent and books us into the only 5 star place in Bhopal and arranges cars and drivers for sightseeing. We choose to end our travels with a blaze of luxury; 5 days of 5 stars.

25 miles of bad roadstakes 2 hours...Beehive stupas with carved gateways and enormous balustrades encircling the walkways around. We circumnabulate to the left. What are these things? Temple ruins, monasteries, more stupas - an incredible hilltop, serene, green. Shariputra's relics are here, we read. Only a few hundred years after the Buddha lived, but the power is lacking. Not like Sarnath, there the remains were few, but the powere overwhelming. We roam all over the site.

Udaygiri Caves
20 retreat caves, some with carvings, says the guide book. A fabulous hike for mostly disappoinment. We start out at the Shiva temple cave, a guide unlocks the cage-like door. It stinks of rancid something. Then a steep rock step climb to the #20 cave, Jain. A stairway disappears into the mountain, it's entrance locked. Broken, he says, can't go in. Then a long winding walk across two peaks, up and down. We follow silently, have no idea where we are going. A side trip to a small park area brings an injury to my achilles tendon, caught in an iron gate. Patched up we finally reach the finale. Vishnu, a lion headed incarnation, a huge mural wall... Mercifully the driver appears with the car and we escape the crowd of boys who have spotted us at the bottom.


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